Decline in attendance at places of worship has led creative solutions

With the resrictions from the COVID-19 virus, many churches have been forced to take a new look at how they administer their services. Cole Tompkins | Photographer

By Caitlin Erramouspe | Reporter

Beginning last year, churches and other places of worship had to adapt their services to follow safety guidelines due to the pandemic. Since then, Baylor students and Wacoans have attended church online, in small groups or not at all.

Owen Wible, creative director of Antioch Waco, said he has noticed less students in attendance.

“We’ve definitely had less people attending in person than we did pre-COVID,” Wible said. “At the start of this year, we had double the people attending Sunday services via the livestream than those who were able to worship with us in person.”

Other congregations are also taking advantage of online streaming services. Congregation Agudath Jacob has halted all in-person synagogue activities and services. According to their website, members can livestream services and attend special Zoom programs.

“I think the current statistic for churches is seeing only 40% of their congregation return to in-person worship. However, that number rises and falls based on the culture you live in,” Pastor Slim Thompson from Mosaic Waco said.

Thompson said he believes that churches need to adapt in order to form a community in new ways during COVID-19. Mosaic Waco now holds their church services in the parking lot of the Doris Miller YMCA, which has led to an increase in attendance.

“Drive-in church has really provided a space for those who really want to be safe and who really want to see real people,” Thompson said.

Antioch’s plan to return to full capacity in-person services is reliant on the state changing their parameters on gatherings. Mosaic Waco is hopeful for a return to normal this summer, “but we’ll ask our doctors for wisdom on any moves before committing to any path,” Thompson said.

Students wanting to explore the church options available in Waco can contact Baylor Spiritual Life in the Bobo Spiritual Life Center on campus.